Often having been developed for use by younger generations, most IT services and smartphone apps can be difficult to use for elderly people. In 2016, recognizing the need for apps that take into account the way seniors use smartphones, Masako Wakamiya began learning the programming language Swift, before releasing her iOS game “hinadan” in February 2017. She was selected to participate in the scholarship program of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2017 (WWDC2017). In his keynote speech, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced her as the oldest developer at the conference at age 81.
Despite having no previous experience in IT or programming, Wakamiya decided to buy her first computer after her retirement at the age of 60 so she could “connect with more people.” In 1999, as the internet was beginning to take off, she was involved in the creation of a website aimed at elderly people called Mellow Club, where she launched the Mellow Denshokan – a project to archive the accounts of those who had lived through the Pacific War. In 2005, the project was awarded the Culture Prize at the Japan session of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society.
Wakamiya believes that it is important to enjoy what you are doing, even when you face setbacks. She demonstrates that IT can be learned by anyone regardless of age or experience and that through the use of technology anyone can get involved. This prize is awarded in recognition of her limitless energy for taking on new challenges and also the expectation of further success in the future.
I Always Want to Be
What I’ll Be Talking About Today
★ Who I Am
★ What I’m Creating
◆ Who I Am (1)
I was born in April 1935.
high school until retirement,
I’d worked at a bank.
After retiring, I’d been taking care of my
mother and enjoying spending time with my
generational peers at the Mellow Club.
◆ Who I Am (2)
The Mellow Club has enabled me to stay
abreast of a wide range of information and
helped me to make many good friends.
The computer has given me wings.
These wings have taken me out of the
confines of my home and into a wider
◆ Who I Am (3)
10 years after retirement, my mother passed
at the age of 100. That’s when I started
teaching computer class at home, so that
people of my age group can also experience
the joy of using a computer.
I found that there weren’t many
computer textbooks designed for seniors,
so I decided to make my own. One of
them is “Excel Art.”
How to make a pendant with 3D printer?
First, I made a design drawing with free software.
Next, I made a pendant by
using the 3D Printer of the
an Game App called “Hinadan.”
★ What I’m Creating
The Reason Why I Made the App
Increasingly more seniors are using smartphones and tablets.
But there aren’t many apps that seniors can enjoy.
Game apps are especially hard to find.
I asked a young developer to make one, but my request was
However, there was someone that taught me how I could make
Why I Chose “Hinadan” as the Theme
🍑 Girl’s Festival is an annual event that prays for the healthy growth of girls.
🍑 “Hinadan” is a tiered platform for displaying ornamental dolls during the
🍑 There is a rule to how the dolls should be displayed.
🍑 Seniors know this rule so they have an
advantage when playing the game against a
🍑 I wanted to unveil it at the Digital Girl’s Festival
hosted by the Broadband School Association
How I Made the App
🌸 I first created a flow chart
🌸 I chose a development software and studied it on my own
🌸 I met with someone that will teach me
🌸 I prepared the content
Images (which I asked Setsuko Mineo-san to create)
Voice recording (I asked a professional)
🌸 I went through the process of registering the app with
Creating the Flow Chart Continue this
process until all of
the dolls have been
Has it been
= location number
How the screen would
look like when finished
1. Display the words
2. Activate sound
3. Screen remains the
1. Display the words “correct”
2. Activate sound effect A
3. Replace the image of the doll
and the position.
(the bottom part of the screen
will be eliminated)
Bottom part of
the screen (where
the dolls were) is
1. Set the timer off. Display the time spent to
finish the game.
2. Turn off the BGM.
3. Display the image of Maro and the call-out
🌸 Selecting the development software: Apple’s “Swift”
Creating the Flow Chart
🌸 Prepare to learn remotely
My teacher was Mr. Koizumi
living in Miyagi prefecture.
I simply started to “try making it”
❁ I only learned coding that were directly needed for
❁ I prepared to be registered as a developer while
developing the app.
Only having fragmented knowledge of
coding, it was difficult to develop a
comprehensive program that would serve
Everything in English, was very difficult
Programming, error messages,
formalities for Apple,
everything was in English. English
Dear Masako Wakamiya,
The following app has been approved.
and the app status has changed to Ready for Sale:
App Name: hinadan
App Version Number: 1.0
App Type: iOS
App SKU: hinadan
2/24/2017 I received the below notice from Apple
Fortunately I was able to release my app
★ What made me happy
Users comments after the app was released
・A senior who had never touched a smartphone before enjoyed the game.
・Thanks to this game enjoyable to 3 generations, my mother, me and my
・Since this game is fairly slow, handicapped children are likely to be
（from a teacher at special needs school）
There was an incredible amount of response
Unexpected number of downloads
The # of downloads
The number of people
who check the app at
In addition to CNN, my story was covered by
media in over 40 languages.
By Presslogic on 01 Mar 2017
List of TVs, radios, magazines and newspapers that I was interviewed
By the way, the pendant I wored at that time is the
homemade thing I told you earlier.
What I want to do in future
I want to learn programming thoroughly.
I want to make this app multilingual.
Ideally, I want to create a new game app.
I want this app to be something that can be
both handicapped people and seniors,
while also helping handing down the Japanese
traditions to the younger generations.
◆ Reason why I want to be creative
I think that act of creating things is the most
humanlike activity, something that AI cannot do.
That is why I want to be creative.
Thank you for listening.